This is part two of the fifth installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor. To review, the seven keys are:
- Customized Product
- Attention to Details
- Warranty & Protection
As a continuation of part five of our series on “The Seven Keys To Finding a Great Contractor,” we discuss the importance of a customized design in the success of your outdoor living space.
PART 5, continued — CUSTOMIZED DESIGN The design of a project is perhaps the most important phase of creating an outdoor living space you will enjoy and be proud of. It’s also an opportunity to see the level of experience, professionalism, and value your builder can bring to the table. The design should take into account your personal needs and preferences, the use of space regarding furniture, grills, etc., the traffic flow of the space, and your appetite for ongoing maintenance. And of course your budget.
The salesman should be knowledgeable about materials options and should be willing to take time to educate you.
Your job in this process is to do your homework – look at pictures on vendor websites, Pinterest, Houzz and other sites for examples to get a feel for what you like. Ask lots of questions, and make sure that you give the salesman feedback on his design to keep him on track.
There are 5 factors that will determine the cost of your project. You can work towards managing your budget by managing these factors. These are:
- The size of the project – A 400- square-foot deck costs more than a 200-square- foot deck – not double, but significantly more. This is an important factor that is totally up to you. However, be careful to ensure that the project you decide on is big enough to do what you intend to do on it. Some customers opt for a small space due to budget constraints and then are disappointed when certain furniture won’t fit in the space. If you know how you want to use the space, line of an area of the yard or house the size of the proposed project and actually put the furniture there to see if it works. This is a mistake that does happen, and is hard to fix after the fact.
- The materials you choose – a pressure treated yellow pine deck costs far less than an Azek PVC composite deck. However, it may not look as impressive, last as long or be as easy to maintain. In addition, you will need to spend money every 2-3 years to protect the pressure-treated wood, and over the life of the deck, this may cost more than the up-front investment in maintenance-free materials. Your salesman should be able to walk you through your choices.
- Amenities – features that you add to the project can be what makes it special for you. Items like bench seating, lighting, a fire pit, a water feature, or a built-in outdoor kitchen make a project beautiful and impressive. However, they can be the most expensive part of the project.
- Environment – The area where your project is built may affect the price – for example, it’s easier (and therefore cheaper) to install a patio in a flat yard than in a yard that needs to be backfilled and built up. It’s also easier to build a deck three feet off the ground than it is 12 feet off the ground. This is an area that you may not have much control over, but it is a factor to bear in mind.
- Quality of builder – this is the tricky one. If you search hard enough, you can find a cheap builder. But there are reasons why he is cheap. It could be his quality, his reliability, or the stability of his business. If you bet wrong here, you risk having a finished project that you are not happy with, or worse, having an unfinished project that he has abandoned. The highest-priced contractor isn’t necessarily the best. If you are paying for a quality builder, you should expect him to have adequate General Liability and Workers Comp insurance, builder’s licenses, permits, stability in terms of years in business, and warranties that he will stand behind his work.
In addition to creating an appealing design that fits within your budget, you should be comfortable that the design of your project is structurally sound. This again is an area where you have to rely upon the quality of your builder. Areas he should focus on are the size/strength of the foundation (posts for decks, pillars for sunrooms, and ground preparation for patio structures), proper spacing of beams and joists, and roof tie-ins built properly to avoid leaks. These are all important factors that will ensure you can enjoy your project for years to come. Building codes come into effect here, but these are often minimal standards that should not only be met but exceeded in a quality structure.
As a side note, every builder who takes the time to create custom designs he is proud of has had the frustrating experience of having an unscrupulous customer take his design and give it to a cheaper builder to do the work. So don’t be offended if/when a builder won’t release the design to you until a contract is signed. It is an unfortunate necessity of protecting his tradecraft.
In summary, your project will only be as good as its design. Is it sound? Is it something you can afford? Does it suit your personal lifestyle? And most important, is it something you will be proud of every time you use it? If you have found a contractor who can provide you with such a design, you have likely found a contractor who is a good fit for you.
The Archadeck of Central SC team – Mike Reu, Marshall Reu and Tucker Reu
Our commitment to excellence in outdoor structure design and building ensures your unique project will bring enjoyment and pride for many years to come! Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation at (803) 784-1566 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit our extensive outdoor structure galleries located on our website for more examples of our lovely designs.